Technology Selection Revisted

If you didn’t believe my ramblings in “Common Sense and Technology Selection“, I’ve got a nice anecdotal (and funny) story that backs up my assertion that common sense is lacking in the technology selection process in most organizations.

Jump over to The Daily WTF and read this story….I’ll wait for you. Go.

Did you read it? It’s funny…but sad. And true. And this type of approach (selection via buzzwords) costs companies’ millions of dollars a year (if not billions).

If you didn’t read my “Common Sense and Technology Selection” article (shame on you!), here’s the process that many companies use today for selecting technology (the one that doesn’t use common sense):

  1. Hear about the “latest technology” and/or hear a buzzword.
  2. Think “yes…we need that….that will make everything better!”
  3. Talk to a few vendors.
  4. See a demo.
  5. Buy the platform
  6. Throw it over the wall to the technology group to implement.
  7. Go look for your next buzzword.

Now…go read this passage from the the story on The Daily WTF:

The next time I met him, a scant 6 months later, he was backing into my loading dock with a truck full of brand new desktop PCs, older servers, and all manner of fancy Cisco 10/100 and Gigabit gear. “The CEO read a pamphlet about the lower total cost of ownership of thin clients. We’re rolling them out branch-by-branch now. The server and network upgrades are killing us. All these shiny new desktops are going to be coming your way now.”

In the story that is related on The Daily WTF, this particular company my 5 or 6 trips to ‘recycle’ their computer equipment. How much money do you think this cost the company? Had to be an enormous amount.

The Daily WTF: “Job Interview 2.0″

If you don’t know The Daily WTF, you should…most of the content is programmer related (and usually goes over my head) but some of the content is quite interesting.

Take for example, the two blog posts below…they deal with Interviewing candidates. If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know I’ve blogged about Interviewing (here and here for example) and that I think that an organization should try their darnedest to hire the best people that they can.

The two posts below are meant to be funny but they also provide a bit of insight into the world of interviewing.

Design me a House (by David J)

In “Design me a House“, the author describes an interview that he knew fairly early on in the interview process that he wasn’t a good fit for but couldn’t quite get the interviewer to stop the interview. The interviewer jumped into a ‘Job Interview 2.0’ interview style and asked the following question:

“Design me a house,” the interviewer cheerfully demanded.

“Ugh,” I groaned, “what do you want your house to look like?”

“But aren’t you going to ask how many floors it should have,” he glibly responded.

“Fine. How many floors do you want?”

“Two!,” he shouted, “no, three! I mean, one! Err… no, I want six, maybe sev–“

The interviewee played along until he could take it no more and said:

“Look,” I interrupted, “I don’t mean to be rude, but you haven’t asked a single question about programming.”

The interviewer scoffed, “you’ve got a lot to learn about developing good software if you don’t see the relevance here.”

Thankfully, the interview ended shortly thereafter. And while they never did extend me an offer, they did end up going out of business later that year. Apparently, they had issues delivering software to their clients.

Job Interview 2.0: Now With Riddles!

In this blog post, the author approaches the ‘new’ ideas of job interview questions that have nothing to do with the job but try to pull out some ideas about the creativity, critical thinking abilities and other skills of the candidate. However, some of these questions can be very confusing and downright asinine.Take the example below that a reader of The Daily WTF sent in:

During a screening interview, I was asked how I would design a bike fit for someone visually impaired. I responded something to the effect of, “What, like, for blind people?”, and she answered yes.

I thought for a moment and then I responded, “Well.. a blind person riding a bike doesn’t sound like a very safe idea, so I would make the bike stationary, maybe with a fan blowing in the person’s face. He probably wouldn’t even know the difference.”

She was speechless.

The author goes on to say the following:

Now, granted, he will not get the job. Despite the complete absurdity of the design request, and the complete practicality of his answer, the job will go to a candidate who manages to answer the question by designing an extremely overcomplicated solution for a completely non-existent problem. And that candidate will be the same person who designs their software.

Analysis

Consider these questions (also from Job Interview 2.0: Now With Riddles!)

  1. How would you determine the weight of a Boeing 747?
  2. Given an opaque box with three light bulbs inside and three switches outside, how would you determine which switch corresponded to which bulb if the box could be opened only once and only after all the switches were permanently set?
  3. You are at a ravine with three others and need to cross a rickety bridge. You can cross it in one minute, the three others can cross it in two, five, and ten, respectively. A flashlight (your group has only one) is always required to cross, and only two people can cross at a time. How do you cross as quickly as possible?

Do questions like this really help you to determine who the person is and what they are capable of? Sure they may might help determine the creativity and critical thinking capabilities but these days I’d gamble that most of these questions are out on the net somewhere (e.g., google “how would you determine the weight of a boeing 747“) so you may have lost that ability as well.

Do you really want to ask your candidates silly questions like this or would you rather get to know the candidate on a more personal level? How about taking the candidate out for a coffee and spending some quality time interacting and getting to know them? That’s my approach at least.

When I’ve been asked these questions in the past my ‘BS’ alert starts to go off in my head and I start looking for the exit. Next time I’ll have to submit the interview The Daily WTF 🙂